Monetizing Information Flows


StreetContxt is a hot, Canadian-based start-up that just raised $8 million from A-list investors, including a number of big banks and brokerage houses. Its mission is simple: to maximize the value of the mountain of investment research that gets generated each year. But what really makes StreetContxt stand out to me is that it offers a very compelling business proposition to both those who create the research and those who use it.

For the sell-side (those who create the content), it’s currently difficult to measure the impact much less the ROI on the huge volume of research they create annually. They send it out to presumably interested and qualified recipients, with no way of knowing if it is acted on, or even viewed.

For the buy-side (those who receive and use the content), it’s impossible to keep up with the blizzard of information being pushed out to them. Even more significantly, some of this research is very good, but a lot of it isn’t. How do you identify the good stuff?

StreetContxt offers the sell-side a powerful intelligence platform. By distributing research through StreetContxt, research producers can learn exactly who viewed their research and whether it was forwarded to others (multiple forwards are used as a signal to suggest a timely and important research report). What naturally falls out of this is the ability to assess what research is having the most market impact. But StreetContxt also helps research producers correlate research with trading activity to help make sure that their research insights are being rewarded with adequate commission revenue. Even better, StreetContxt helps the sell-side by providing insight into who is reading research on what topics and with what level of engagement in order to help power sales conversations. In short, StreetContxt tracks “who’s reading what” at a very granular level both to measure impact but also to inform selling activity.

On the buy-side, StreetContxt helps those who use research with a recommendation engine. Research users can specify topical areas of interest that get tuned by StreetContxt based on who is reading and forwarding what research reports. In other word, StreetContxt has found an approach to automatically surface the best and most important research. StreetContxt also helps research users by monitoring relevant research from sources to which the research user may not currently subscribe. And since much research is provided in exchange for trading commissions, StreetContxt can help research users get the most value from these credits.

The magic described here happens because the content creators post to the central StreetContxt portal, and research users access content from the same portal. This allows StreetConxt to monitor exactly who is using what research.

Why would research users allow their every click to be tracked and turned into sales leads? Because StreetContxt offers them a powerful inventive in the form of curated research recommendations, a better way to manage research instead of having it flood their in-boxes as it does now, and most importantly of all, a way to ferret out the best and most important research.

The big lesson for me is that with a sufficiently compelling value proposition on both sides, smart companies can position themselves in the middle of an information flow and monetize the resulting data in powerful and profitable ways.